Abu Dhabi: Has Pakistan mastered the art of playing T20 cricket? Well that’s debatable. But certainly, Sarfraz Ahmad and his boys know a trick or two about playing in this format and that has given them an edge over the rest in world cricket.
They have proved that their No. 1 T20 ranking is no fluke with 10 successive T20 series win.
After putting the Australians to the sword and completely outclassing them in the three-match T20 series, Pakistan have another opportunity to enhance their reputation further when they meet New Zealand at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium on Wednesday. The action in the first of the three-match series starts at 8pm.
Skipper Sarfraz said that his side’s major strength has been the influx of youth in the squad.
“The important factor behind our success is that we have new boys in the squad. So were are a young and energetic side,” said Sarfraz, adding that fielding has been another key factor that has led to the side’s domination in this format.
“Our fielding in the shorter format has improved impressively. Whenever our team has required a good catch or a run out, we have managed to get that. I think our fielding has been extraordinary in the shorter format when you compare with other teams. Clearly our fitness and fielding is better than other teams.”
Sarfraz pointed out that some of the catches taken by Shoaib Malek and the rest during the series against Australia were simply exceptional.
Malek, who was in Hyderabad, India, following the birth of his son with tennis-star wife Sania Mirza, is expected to be back in time for the opener.
“Congrats to Shoaib and his family for the birth of his son,” said Sarfraz. “I wish both son and mother good health. Shoaib will be joining the team tomorrow morning and will be available for the session and the match as well.”
Sarfraz rates New Zealand as a strong team and felt it was important to start off on a high.
“New Zealand are a tough side and they performed well in the T20 format,” he said. “Our aim will be to carry the momentum, which is on our side. Always the first match of the series is important. We will try to set the tone straight away so that we can have a good series ahead.”
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson accepted that his side have their task cut out against Pakistan.
“Obviously Pakistan are a strong side,” he said. “That’s something we know for a long time. The last time we played against them was at home in New Zealand and was a tough series. Coming over here, they are extremely strong in these conditions.
Williamson is missing the services of opener Martin Guptill but has Glenn Phillips and the hard-hitting Corey Anderson back in the squad.
“It’s a shame we don’t have Martin for this series,” said Williamson. “He obviously is a world-class player for us and a big performer but it also provides the opportunities for some other guys mentioned. The guys who have come from the ‘A’ team, and that’s the nature of it. Anderson and Phillips have both had international experience before and Ajaz Patel is new to the environment but an experienced cricketer. So it’s great that he gets an opportunity in the series.”
This is New Zealand’s first international match in seven months and first T20 match in nine.
“Yes, it an unusually long time between internationals,” admitted Williamson. “But there is a lot of cricket being played in different competitions and also the guys have had some cricket. I guess it makes the guys very excited to get back involved and a great country to come to play cricket against Pakistan, who are one of the strongest teams in the world at the moment.”
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmad (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Sahibzada Farhan, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Usman Khan Shanwari, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, (Shaheen Shah Afridi 12th man)
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Corey Anderson, Mark Chapman, Lockie Ferguson, Colin de Grandhomme, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Ajaz Patel, Glenn Phillips, Seth Rance, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.